Joe Bishop lives in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador. His work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Twig and With an Image of Grace.
Listen to me speaking The King’s English. Look at me go, nosing what bow, rowing with what Oxford pupil, what hand expert, and docking on what levee, beating a path past granite fog, and what driftwood whispers worming deep, past horns and hoofs too preoccupied to prey on human heat, and roaming toward what unmapped kingdom. We set camp, light fire.
And guess how oblivious to the destination, arriving at what given divination derived at the last minute what leitmotif of dangling carrots what current conjecture what labour in accordance with what imagined enterprise in order to erect a monument to the volt that vaults tied tongues and what forced fossils what embedded babble and guess for what futile reason and guess what rag and bone man gives these visions and revisions and what do and redo and guess what Lazarus is alive again and what revolution would grow out of my privation.
I have viewed verite and know how moving visions develop. I have tangoed with French tongues and I know what the avant-garde reveals. I have devoured the blood of a poet and conceived of poesie autobiographique pour moi. I extend the slanted master shot back. From this angle it resembles the tortured theatre of Artaud, the mad method, the menacing manacle, the mangled meanings, the delicate monsters stamping their collective foot. (And then there’s calm.)
These out of focus frames on the cutting room floor are real as any weatherman’s map. In this scene I deviate from the method; though you know I’ll find my direction. The audience will watch me wipe my sword clean, and smear my bloody hand across my chest. An obedient camera will pan on a titan but not before shooting tight on an ant, on an invisible worm, on the whisper in the abdomen of Brando’s Adam’s apple. An actor casts his lurid lines; his hollow hooks, the heart of wreaths, the ebony growing between gaps of ivory. Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!
Folly gave me life in vain. Not even amore will save me. Nature’s army will never give me Hadrian’s wall. I grope the cellar and the crawl space too but begin to build Roman thoughts above ground. I recap along the road to Italy and taste the bottled blood of Bacchus. O divine Miranda revive in me the golden age of Virgil. I hear the vast voice and see smoke stretched along a stream of blood and what long white beard what hands cling to dangling oars as melodic phrases ovulate under my thinking hat and emerge from driving gloves as I veer from that paved way as deaf feet march en route toward dead ends.
And it doesn’t take Tiresias to tell that the godly sea will goad again and again the bugle will blast but the red breast in this palm hatched from the shell of impetuous beauty and what ritualized proof is required and what dumb luck and what tragic laugh what balled up canon blast boom off untied tongues? It may be May but it orbits in suspense. It began with a fetal stroke but then the push against the undertow as streaked as the hare snared for its paw as streaked as our solo plot as deep-rooted as our gored lord facing defeat verses the fittest pig and falling into filth but rain goes deep as dryads lurk amid a murmur of a rumour and fairies look into the rippling mirror to see their cloven echo and what dreadful feat what underground maze what philosophy of acts what epistemology of logs what speechless gesture what semantics of snarled limbs reaching toward what golden age of guides what carried logs and what lovely service while a slave vies for his isle.
O great divide dividing and what eavesdropped unknown would envelop and as a result the keystone of all captive kings. It doesn’t take Tiresias to tell the godly sea will goad again. Flotsam and jetsam point to the captain being carried across by happenstance and frantic passengers facing peace. The mariner in me seems as much the mean as any man who fathoms grandeur in the pride lunging at supper. The jig is up. The ship has capsized.
I build the bird above the boat afloat the flood but barely. The waves have ruptured the barrier I built and jostled my crumbling coast. O the gulls I can’t forget O the dry man drowning O the swan singing along O the swimmer in me gasping O the first stroke registered O the fighter fights defeat O the cubed resemblance O the usurper has time to brood O the usurper of Europe is still Picasso’s Blue Period. I riff in the bluest key. And what dismantled empire will be reassembled? What wood will awaken to find itself fiddled? What bridge built of timbers knocked down with the edge of what hand? Adam was good at cooking rack of lamb. He had always developed his skills. Eve –– intuitive, innovative, evolving from an original rib — she savoured playing the violin. The lion has yet to use utensils.